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Taj Mahal :: Agra, India

February 16, 2010 by  
Category: Landmarks

Considered to be the finest example of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. The white domed marble mausoleum is the most well known aspect of the building. Construction of the building began in 1632, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen and was lead by a board of architects including Ustad Ahmad Lahauri who is generally considered to be the principal designer. In 1983, the Taj Mahal was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as a jewel of Muslim art in India. With two to four million visitors annually, the Taj Mahal is definitely one of the most visited landmarks worldwide. It has been listed on a variety of Wonder of the World lists including the recently announced “New Seven Wonders of the World”.

The Taj Mahal has had its share of adversity, by the late 1800s parts of the building were badly deteriorated and during the Indian rebellion of 1857 it was defaced by British soldiers and government officials, chiseling out precious stones and lapis lazuli from the walls of the building. Around the turn of the century, British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a massive restoration project including a remodeled garden with British-style lawns that are still in place, this restoration was completed in 1908. The main focus and probably most famous visual of the Taj Mahal is the tomb. This is the large white marble structure topped by a large dome that everyone has seen in postcards and photos. The entire mausoleum is decorated with inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy using precious gems to accentuate the designs. Throughout the Taj Mahal, passages of the Qur’an are used as decoration on the exteriors of the buildings. The Taj Mahal complex is surrounded by red sandstone walls on three sides, leaving the river facing side open. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums including those of Shah Jahan’s other wives and a large tomb for Mumtaz’s favorite servant. The main gateway is built primarily out of marble and is reminiscent of early emperor Mughal architecture.

Polluting traffic is not allowed near the Taj Mahal, visitors must either walk from parking lots or take electric buses to the location. The complex is open from 6 am to 7 pm weekdays, except Fridays when the complex is only open for prayers between 12 pm and 2 pm. It is also open for night viewing for the two days before, during and two days after a full moon with the exception of Fridays and the month of Ramzan. Due to security concerns only five items are allowed inside the Taj Mahal, these items are: water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small women’s purses. Tickets to visit the Taj Mahal will run foreigners about 970 rupies, Indians can visit for 20 rupies during the day or 110 rupies during sunrise and sunset.

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